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Penn State Wrestling: Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks Among 10 Hodge Trophy Finalists

Carter Starocci, Penn State Wrestling
Photo by NCAA: Carter Starocci

Penn State wrestling starts Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks are among the 10 nominees for this year’s Hodge Trophy, which is college wrestlings version of the Heisman.

This news comes days after Starocci (174 pounds)  and Brooks (184) won their third national championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this past weekend.

Starocci got his title by pinning Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola, and Brooks earned his with a 7-2 decision over Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckesisen.

Per wrestling podcaster Justin Basch, this is the first time that all 10 national champions make up the finalists. Three of Penn State’s wrestlers lost in championship matches. At 133 pounds, No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young couldn’t join Starocci and Brooks in winning a third straight title. RBY fell to Cornell’s Vito Arujau in a 10-4 decision. As a result, Arujau, not RBY, is up for the Hodge.

At 149, true freshman sensation Levi Haines fell short of what would have been a remarkable national title win against North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor, losing a 6-2 decision to the sixth-year senior. O’Connor is up for the Hodge.

In the heavyweight class, Michigan’s Mason Parris capped off a 33-0 season at the expense of Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet. Parris beat Kerkvliet for the third time, winning a 5-1 decision. Parris certainly earned his Hodge nomination.

One name who is notably missing— much to the delight of some Penn State fans— is Iowa’s Spencer Lee.

Lee was expected to become a four-time national champion but that dream died when Purdue’s Matt Ramos pinned him in the semifinals. Ramos ended up losing to Princeton’s Pat Glory in the championship match, and Glory is up for the Hodge.

Unlike Lee, Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis completed the dream of winning four national titles. Diakomihalis beat Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso to complete a goal only previously accomplished by four other wrestlers, one of them being Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, who won three Hodge trophies.

Sanderson is now the No. 1 coach in college wrestling, running the No. 1 program. Penn State won its 10th team title in 12 seasons under Sanderson, and its two Hodge finalists played big parts. Starocci finished the season 24-0 and is 61-2 overall. Brooks ended the season 17-1 and has a 67-3 overall record.

Both have eligibility remaining, but Starocci hinted after his national title win that he won’t be back at Penn State, saying his next goal was to win an Olympic gold medal in 2024.

Fans can vote for the Hodge winner here.

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